New Celtics Sharpshooter’s Big Debut Put on the Back Burner

Evan Fournier Celtics

Getty Evan Fournier, then of the Orlando Magic, battles with the Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart for a loose ball.

The Boston Celtics may have acquired multiple players ahead of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, but the clear headliner among the incoming ballers was sharpshooter Evan Fournier. In the wake of his deal, Fournier even alluded to potentially filling the role vacated by former All-Star Gordon Hayward when he joins his new club.

Unfortunately, the nine-year NBA veteran will have to wait a while before he does anything on the court for the Celtics.

On the team’s Saturday injury report, Fournier was listed as out for Boston’s next game, a Saturday night road bout with the Oklahoma City Thunder. According to the report, Fournier now finds himself in the league’s health and safety protocols.

Fournier Out Due to COVID-19?

Although the Celtics and the NBA won’t comment on the specifics of Fournier’s situation, the health and safety protocols tag is used for coronavirus-related issues. So, it would stand to reason that he has come into contact with someone who contracted COVID-19 or has tested positive for the virus himself.

It is a major blow for a Boston squad that is counting on the 28-year-old to help ignite a reversal of fortunes. Despite beating the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, the Celtics currently sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 22-23.

That mark is a far cry from the results that were expected from a team led by All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as well as one of the Association’s best coaches in Brad Stevens.

However, COVID-19 has undoubtedly played a major role in that shortfall.

Celtics Have Been Crushed by the Coronavirus

Fournier is far from the first Celtics player to miss time due to health safety protocols. Second-year pro and former lottery pick Romeo Langford continues to be missing in action due to health safety protocols. And veteran big man Tristan Thompson carries the same tag as well.

Although Langford has yet to appear in a game for the Celtics this season, Thompson had been a fixture in the starting five before being ruled out. Even Tatum continues to deal with the aftereffects of his own COVID-19 diagnosis in January.

On the whole, the Celtics may have been hampered by the pandemic more than any other team in the NBA. According to Fansure tracking, they had registered more player-days in COVID-19 protocol than any other club in the league as of March 23.

And that number grows by the day as Langford, Thompson, and Fournier miss time.

Absences Abound

In addition to the aforementioned players, the Celtics will be tasked with beating the Thunder with multiple others sitting out as well.

Kemba Walker, who is still trying to find his feet after returning from a knee injury, continues to be inactive in back-to-back situations. Meanwhile, Semi Ojeleye is set to miss his second straight game with what the team is calling a left side strain.

Luckily, the Thunder will be missing their top scorer in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Darius Bazley and new arrivals Austin Rivers and Tony Bradley are also expected to miss the game for OKC.

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